Whatcom wages rising faster than national average

By Jami Makan

Data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that wages in Washington state and Whatcom County are increasing faster than the national average.

Recent BLS data from the fourth quarter of 2018 shows that average weekly wages in Washington state increased 6.3 percent compared to a year earlier. This is in contrast to wages for the United States as a whole, which increased by 3.2 percent.

In Whatcom County in particular, average weekly wages increased 4.7 percent from a year earlier, also outpacing the national average.

The average weekly wage in Washington state now stands at $1,292, compared to the national average of $1,144. However, Whatcom County wages are lower than the state and national averages, coming in at $944 per week.

In addition to wages, the actual number of people employed has also gone up on all fronts. Nationally, employment rose by 1.5 percent in December compared to a year earlier. At the state level, employment rose 2.4 percent, while in Whatcom County employment rose 2.3 percent.

A closer look at the data reveals that certain industries are driving wage growth in Whatcom County. The industry that saw the largest wage increase in Whatcom County in the fourth quarter of 2018 was the federal government, which saw average wage increases of 18.2 percent compared to a year earlier.

Whatcom County’s information industry also saw a double-digit increase in wages from a year earlier. According to the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), the information industry includes telecommunications; data processing, hosting and related services; and publishing industries, including software and internet publishing.

All industries in Whatcom County saw at least a small wage increase, except for financial activities, which saw no increase in wages whatsoever. According to NAICS, financial investment activities include portfolio management and investment advice.

In terms of overall employment, the leisure and hospitality industry in Whatcom County saw the largest gain with an employment increase of 5.4 percent in December compared to a year earlier. Meanwhile, the natural resources and mining industry saw a 7.8 percent decrease in employment in Whatcom County in December compared to a year earlier.

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